Fascinating and depressing, Herzog takes us to the world of the deaf and blind. Our guide is Fini Straubinger, a woman who lost her sight at age 15 and her hearing a few years later and, after 30 years of laying in bed doped up on morphine, has become an advocate for the deaf-blind. She speaks well and is spoken to tactilely, meaning someone must make poke, peck and swish at the palm of her hand. Watching this activity is amazing. How anyone can learn this system of communication is remarkable, let alone to do it when deaf and blind. Herzog then shows us people deaf and blind from birth that’ve not been taught to communicate. These helpless people mirror an earlier scene when Fini’s group goes to the zoo. Herzog is careful not to present the deaf-blind as animals, but as individuals trapped in their own consciousness. Even the best trained can only make mild, sporatic contact with others. However, there are moments of joy – like a lift in an airplane or a shower or bumping into and exploring a tree.
I remember as a kid, during car trips, my sister and I would ponder which was worse — being deaf or blind. (For some reason, this was a frequent topic.) To explore the existence of being both is truly horrifying.